The Golden Mean

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A Year in Marginalia: Sam Anderson

The writing I enjoy doing most, every year, is marginalia: spontaneous bursts of pure, private response to whatever book happens to be in front of me. It’s the most intimate, complete, and honest form of criticism possible — not the big wide-angle aerial shot you get from an official review essay, but a moment-by-moment record of what a book actually feels like to the actively reading brain. Here are some snapshots, month by month, of my marginalia from 2010. (Click each image for a larger view)

January
Point Omega by Don Delillo

February
Reality Hunger by David Shields

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

March
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

April
Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

May
The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis

June
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson

July
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

August
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lydia Davis

September
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

October
The Anthology of Rap, edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois

November
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

December
The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

More from a Year in Reading 2010

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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Digging into the 2011 IMPAC Longlist

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has unveiled its massive 2011 longlist. Recall that libraries around the world can nominate books for the prize, and these nominations, taken together, comprise the longlist. This year there are 162 novels on the list, nominated by 126 libraries in 43 countries. All of the books must have been published in English in 2009 (including translations).

Because of the award’s global reach and egalitarian process, it’s always interesting to dig deeper into the longlist. Taken as a whole, the literary proclivities of various countries become evident, and a few titles recur again and again, revealing which books have made a global impact on readers.

Overall favorites: books that were nominated by at least seven libraries.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (14 libraries representing Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States)

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (13 libraries representing Belgium, England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (11 libraries representing Barbados, Hungary, Maldives, and the United States)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (10 libraries representing Australia, Canada, England, India, Italy, South Africa, and the United States)

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (7 libraries representing the Greece, Norway, Spain, and the United States)

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (7 libraries representing Barbados, New Zealand, Poland, Scotland, and the United States)

The Blind Side of the Heart by Julia Franck (7 libraries representing Croatia, Germany, Greece, and Norway)

You can also look at the list and see which books are favorites in different countries. Several books were nominated by multiple libraries in the same country. Here’s a few:

In Canada, The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre, Galore by Michael Crummy, and The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

In the Netherlands, Joe Speedboat by Tommy Wieringa

In Australia, Lovesong by Alex Miller

There were also several countries with only one library nominating just one or two books. Here are a few of those:

From Denmark, The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
From Estonia, Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
From Jamaica, Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis
From Mexico, Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi Escalante
From Trinidad and Tobego, Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez

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